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Nitrogen dynamics in a nutrient-poor soil under mixed-species plantations of eucalypts and acacias

Koutika L.S., Tchichelle S.V., Mareschal L., Epron D.. 2017. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 108 : p. 84-90.

DOI: 10.1016/j.soilbio.2017.01.023

Introducing nitrogen-fixing species (NFS) in eucalypt plantations is a useful practice to compensate nitrogen loss at harvest, reduce fertilizer inputs, improve soil fertility and sustain forest productivity in low input systems. Nitrogen (N) and carbon (C) were evaluated in the active part of soil organic matter (SOM) i.e., the particulate organic matter (POM), which was obtained after soil (0¿0.05 m) physical fractionation at the end of a first 7-year rotation (R1Y7) and at year 2 of a second rotation (R2Y2) in pure acacia (100A), pure eucalypt (100E) and mixed-species (50A50E) stands in an experimental plantation established on an Arenosol in the Congolese coastal plains. N concentration (in g kg-1 of soil) was higher in coarse POM (cPOM, 4000¿250 µm) in 100A and 50A50E compared to 100E at 2YR2, while no difference was found in fine POM (fPOM, 250¿50 µm) and in the organo-mineral fraction (OMF, < 50 µm). N content in cPOM was more than 3 times higher at R2Y2 than at R1Y7. A slight increase was also observed in fPOM, while no difference was observed in OMF between R1Y7 and R2Y2. Lower C:N ratios in the two POM fractions in 100A and, to a lesser extent, in 50A50E compared to 100E suggests an improved soil N status after acacia trees have been introduced in eucalypt plantations. The lack of difference in N content of coarse POM between 100A and 50A50E at R1Y7, despite higher amount of N in the forest floor and N returning to the soil (harvest residues and litterfall) in 100A than in 50A50E, suggests a faster cycling of nitrogen under acacia than under eucalypt.

Mots-clés : plantation forestière; eucalyptus; acacia; casuarina equisetifolia; fixation de l'azote; cycle de l'azote; matière organique du sol; fertilité du sol; arbre fixateur d'azote; culture en mélange; arénosol; congo

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